Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 14, 2023


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 14, 2023

On February 14, 1779, Lt. Col. Elijah Clarke led a charge against British forces at the Battle of Kettle Creek.

On February 14, 1956, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation calling for the protection, cleaning and maintenance, and display of historic Confederate flags at the State Capitol.

On February 14, 1958, the Georgia General Assembly passed a resolution purporting to censure President Dwight D. Eisenhower for using National Guard troops in the integration of schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.

On February 14, 1977, the B-52s played their first gig at a Valentine’s Day party in Athens.

Later that year, the group began making regular runs in the Wilson family station wagon up to New York City for gigs at seminal New Wave clubs like Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s. With Kate and Cindy in their mile-high beehive wigs and 60s thrift-shop best, and Fred looking like a gay, demented golf pro, the B-52s made an immediate impression on the New York scene, and their independently produced single, “Rock Lobster,” became an underground smash.

The B-52s are still in business three decades later, minus Ricky Wilson, who died of AIDS in 1985. Significantly, their success is widely credited for establishing the viability of the Athens, Georgia, music scene, which would produce many minor successes and one massive one—R.E.M.—in the years immediately following the breakthrough of the B-52′s.

On February 14, 2012, we published the first edition of the GaPundit daily political news, featuring dogs. We originally thought that the dogs would be temporary until enough people complained about them that we felt the need to go to once a week. We were surprised that the adoptable dogs have become the signature of GaPundit’s otherwise-political offerings and our greatest success.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today

Tuesday – February 14, 2023
TBD Senate Rules Committee: Upon Adjournment – 450 CAP
8:00 AM Senate Economic Development & Tourism – 450 CAP
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD 18) – House Chamber
10:00 AM Senate Floor Session (LD 18) – Senate Chamber
1:00 PM HOUSE Public Safety and Homeland Security 2-A Sub – 415 CLOB
1:00 PM CANCELED HOUSE Govtal Affairs Elections Sub – 415 CLOB
1:00 PM Cancelled – Senate Children & Families – 307 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE Regulated Industries Regulatory Sub – 406 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE Approps Public Safety Sub – 606 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE Approps Economic Development Sub – 506 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE Governmental Affairs State & Local Govt Sub – 415 CLOB
2:30 PM HOUSE Approps Human Resources Sub – 341 CAP
2:30 PM Senate Education & Youth – 450 CAP
3:30 PM HOUSE Judiciary Non-Civil Leverett Sub – 132 CAP
4:00 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Income Tax Sub – 406 CLOB
4:00 PM Senate Regulated Industries & Utilities – 450 CAP
4:15 PM HOUSE Ways & Means Ad Valorem Sub – 406 CLOB

Governor Brian Kemp announced that Georgia broke its own record for international trade, according to the Albany Herald.

In 2022, Georgia’s total trade exceeded $196 billion across 221 countries and territories. As reported by GDEcD’s International Trade team, the state surpassed $47 billion in exports last year, breaking the previous record by nearly $5 billion and recording an 11% increase compared to 2021.

“For the second year in a row, Georgia has shattered international trade records,” Kemp said in a news release. “I’m proud that 85% of exporters were small businesses, reaching from the Port of Savannah to the north Georgia mountains and everywhere in between. Every county in the state contributed to this success, and this is just the latest sign that opportunity can be found in every zip code in Georgia.

“As we further build on these milestones, I want to thank the hard-working men and women of the Georgia Ports Authority, Hartsfield-Jackson – the nation’s most utilized airport – and GDEcD’s International Trade team for all they do to help drive success in our No. 1 state for business.”

Georgia currently ranks seventh in the U.S. for dollar value of trade. In 2022, among Georgia’s top 10 markets, trade with Vietnam, India, and Korea experienced the most growth. The state’s top five trading partners were Korea, Mexico, Canada, Germany and China. More than $148 billion in imports passed through Georgia last year, growing 20% from 2021.

“Georgia is a global gateway because of consistent investment in our logistics infrastructure and strategic relationships around the world,” GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson said. “Today’s success is the result of a decadeslong vision shared by Georgia leaders since the first international trade offices were opened 50 years ago. The International Trade team, international representatives, and economic development partners across the state open the doors to new opportunities, helping companies achieve transformational success in global markets.”

Governor Brian Kemp named Frank O’Connell as permanent Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Revenue, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

Kemp appointed Frank O’Connell interim commissioner of the revenue agency last November when then-Commissioner Robyn Crittenden left state government to take a job in the private sector.

“Frank O’Connell has demonstrated the leadership and expertise necessary to lead the Department of Revenue in the days ahead,” Kemp said. “Under his leadership, I am confident the Department of Revenue will remain focused on its duties to the people of Georgia and responsible stewardship of the resources entrusted to us by taxpayers.”

O’Connell served as the revenue department’s general counsel and director of legal affairs and tax policy before being named interim commissioner.

Tricia Hise was named Chief Magistrate of Habersham County after her predecessor resigned, according to AccessWDUN.

Tricia L. Hise has been appointed to serve as Chief Magistrate of Habersham County following the resignation of former Judge Gerald Johnson on Jan. 11.

Superior Court Judges Russell W. Smith, B. Chan Caudell and William R. “Bill” Oliver unanimously voted to appoint the Clarkesville attorney to the seat.

Georgia’s magistrate courts hear applications for search warrants, county ordinance violations, garnishments, eviction cases and civil claims for damages where the amount claimed does not exceed $15,000. The courts also set bail for most criminal offenses, conduct trials related to bad check cases and hear cases related to the foreclosure of certain liens.

Hise’s term ends on Dec. 31, 2024.

House Bill 380 by State Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-Athens) would legalize a limited number of online sports betting sites, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Albany Herald.

House Bill 380, sponsored by state Rep. Marcus Wiedower, R-Watkinsville, is being supported by the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

Like sports betting legislation floated in past years in the General Assembly, Wiedower’s bill calls for sports betting to be overseen by the Georgia Lottery Corp.

Unlike previous sports betting bills, the new measure would allow for two types of sports betting licenses. It calls for awarding up to 16 Type 1 licenses to companies that would provide online sports betting services.

A second variety of licenses – known as Type 2 – would go to brick-and-mortar businesses in Georgia that would offer in-person sports betting. Sports betting legislation in past years has been limited strictly to online betting.

Licensees would pay 15% of their adjusted gross incomes to the state in the form of a “privilege tax” that would be set aside to help fund education in Georgia.

Meanwhile, a second sports betting bill introduced into the Georgia Senate earlier this month is scheduled to be heard Tuesday in the Senate Economic Development & Tourism Committee.

The metro chamber’s endorsement of the House bill comes after a coalition of Atlanta’s professional sports teams – the Braves, Falcons, Hawks, and Atlanta United – led the fight to legalize sports betting in Georgia during the last two years.

Senate Bill 57 by Senator Billy Hickman (R-Statesboro) would also legalize some gambling, as we have covered previously, and is due to be considered in committee soon, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

Senate Bill 57 would allow sports betting both online and in person at kiosks that could be located inside a range of businesses, including sports venues. The program would be overseen by the Georgia Lottery Corp.

“By running this through the lottery, there’s not a constitutional amendment required,” Sen. Billy Hickman, R-Statesboro, the bill’s chief sponsor, told members of the Senate Economic Development & Tourism Committee Tuesday. “Sports betting is deemed a lottery game.”

Like a second sports betting bill introduced in the state House of Representatives on Monday, the Senate measure would not require a constitutional amendment to become law, based on a recent legal opinion from former Georgia Chief Justice Harold Melton that a constitutional change is unnecessary.

What’s different about the Senate legislation is it would legalize all types of sports betting – except high school games and other contests involving competitors under age 18.

It would do that by requiring “fixed-odds” rather than “pari-mutuel” betting. With fixed-odds betting, the odds a bettor places on a sports contest don’t change as the volume of bets increases, Hickman said.

The Georgia Constitution specifically prohibits casino gambling and pari-mutuel betting but not fixed-odds betting, added Josh Belinfante, a lawyer representing the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition. Thus, the Senate bill does not need a constitutional amendment, Belinfante said.

Citing an economic impact study released last year, Hickman said sports betting could inject $1 billion annually into Georgia’s economy and create more than 8,500 jobs, many in rural areas of the state.

“That’s more jobs than Chick-fil-A has in Georgia, more jobs than Lockheed has in Georgia,” said Hickman, a horse racing enthusiast who owns thoroughbred horses.

The committee did not vote on the Senate bill Tuesday. Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, the committee’s chairman, who has sponsored horse racing bills in past legislative sessions, said he expects a vote next week.

Senate Bill 93 by Senator Jason Anavitarte (R-Paulding County) would ban TikTok from state devices, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas, would codify Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s directive last year aimed at TikTok, a highly popular video hosting service that runs user-submitted videos.

“The original impetus was going back to national security concerns and the [Chinese Community Party] having access to state government data,” Anavitarte told members of the Senate Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committee.

The TikTok ban would not apply to personal devices, just those purchased by the state. The bill would also make exceptions for law enforcement, cybersecurity research and development, and judicial and legislative proceedings.

[After unanimous recommendation for passage by the Senate Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committee] [t]he bill will now head to the Senate floor for a vote.

Senate Bill 69 by Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah) passed the senior chamber and would honor United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at the State Capitol, according to the AJC.

The Georgia Senate on Tuesday approved a proposal to install a statue of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at the state Capitol.

Senate Bill 69 would add Thomas to the gallery of famous Georgians honored with a statue on the Capitol grounds. No public funds would be spent on the statute. But the proposal sparked a debate that underscored the volatile politics of a closely divided swing state.

“SB 69 honors the hard work and achievement of a local kid born in poverty but who has gone on to serve the highest court in our nation for decades,” said its sponsor, Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, who knows Thomas’ family.

“Given the controversial nature of Justice Thomas and his tenure has not ended, why are we voting on this?” said Sen. Nikki Merritt, D-Grayson.

SB 69 would authorize a Thomas monument inside the Capitol or on its grounds. And it would create a committee of lawmakers to oversee the project.

The statue would be designed, procured and placed by the Capital Art Standards Commission, subject to approval by the legislative committee. It would be paid for with donations from private individuals and organizations.

Senate Bill 62 by Senator Carden Summers (R-Cordele) would , according to the AJC.

Georgia cities and counties could be compelled to enforce bans on public camping or sleeping by homeless people under a bill moving forward in the state Senate.

The measure would also create a structure for the state to designate camping areas for homeless people, and calls for an audit to examine how state and local governments are spending money to alleviate homelessness.

The Senate State & Local Government Operations Committee voted 4-3 to advance Senate Bill 62 on Monday, sending it to the full Senate for more debate.

“Never once was this bill intended to criminalize any person sleeping on the street or the sidewalk,” Summers said.

Opponents also said the bill doesn’t do enough to address underlying problems or promote permanent solutions.

“If the bill’s job is to remove homeless people so that you don’t see them as often, so that you’re not then uncomfortable by the sight of homeless people, maybe this bill does what it’s supposed to,” said Cindy Battles, policy director for the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda.

The current bill, however, doesn’t require the State Properties Commission to consult local governments before designating the camps. Atlanta City Council President Doug Shipman and other told the committee that could be a flashpoint.

But Committee Chairman Frank Ginn, a Danielsville Republican, persuaded Atlanta Democrat Jason Esteves to hold off on amendments after Summers pledged to work with him.

“We know what the bill doesn’t do. It doesn’t solve homelessness,” Ginn said. “I think it does provide some relief.”

The Brunswick City Commission will consider backing a proposal to designate the Okefenokee Swamp a United Nations World Heritage Site, according to The Brunswick News.

Georgia state legislators and members of Georgia’s delegation to the U.S. Congress have issued similar calls in recent weeks for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to grant the designation to the Okefenokee in response to an application from an Alabama company, Twin Pines Minerals, to the state to mine an area outside the swamp for minerals. Environmental groups and a state hydrologist claim the extraction process would be harmful to the swamp.

“A UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge would encourage environmental protection and economic prosperity for the region,” states a letter from U.S. Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter. “It would support efforts to protect and preserve the refuge’s natural and cultural resources, and further important scientific exploration and analysis.”

Georgia state Rep. Darlene Taylor, R-Thomasville, introduced House Bill 71, which would prohibit mining near the swamp.

“The city of Brunswick Board of Commissioners hereby go on record voicing its opposition to the concept of mining titanium dioxide adjacent to the Okefenokee Swamp on the basis that irreparable long-term damage may occur to the ecosystem of this outstanding resource,” the city’s resolution states.

Commissioners will decide whether to formally pass the resolution.

Effingham County faces a shortage of firefighters, according to the Savannah Morning News.

On any given day, firefighters in Effingham County can respond to multiple calls, some of which require nearly two dozen men and women to help put out the blaze. But a shortage of firemen within the county could put that response time in jeopardy. With eight openings, Effingham Fire Captain Hannah Jenkins hopes to get those positions filled quickly.

“We have found that most fire departments across the state are not getting applications,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins thinks the shortage began after the economic collapse in 2008. That, coupled with an influx of newcomers who are unfamiliar with the shortage, has crippled their numbers even more.

“We saw a large percentage of our volunteers go away at that time simply because they had to work more or they had to move with whatever industry they worked with,” said Jenkins. “Now perhaps they came from an area where there is a full-time fire department. Then they get here and they just think it’s already in place and they don’t think about it. It’s one of those things that is just there. People just expect that to be a service that’s provided and they don’t think about everything that goes into it.”

The City of Port Wentworth named Former Savannah Police Department Assistant Chief Kerry Thomas as the new police chief, according to the Savannah Morning News.

Thomas returns to the Savannah area after five years leading the Chamblee Police Department. Chamblee is a city in Dekalb County in the metro Atlanta area. Thomas served in that role from October 2018 to January 2023.

“Chief Thomas is eminently qualified and brings a wealth [of] experience. He will usher in a new era of leadership that is focused on community engagement and professionalism,” said City Manager Steve Davis in a press release.

Thomas’s hiring comes just two weeks after Libby’s sudden retirement after 31 years in law enforcement. Libby announced his retirement on Jan. 29 and left his post two days later amidst the policy violation allegations. Davis, the city manager, said [former Chief Matthew] Libby “was given the choice to retire and he chose that path.”


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